In a new study published by the Wiley Online Library, experts report that a single workout can improve learning and memory in young adults. Remarkably, the researchers found that these cognitive benefits can be achieved in as little as two minutes of moderate exercise.
“Exercise makes you smart,” said study co-author Dr. Peter Blomstrand of County Hospital Ryhov and Jönköping University in Sweden.
“Physical exercise improves mental health and cognitive function. The purpose of this systematic review was to evaluate the current literature examining the acute effects of a single exercise workout on learning and memory functions in young adults.”
Based on 13 relevant studies, the researchers determined that engaging in moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise for 2 to 60 minutes can improve attention, concentration, and learning functions for up to two hours. The experts also noted improvements in working memory, short-term memory, long-term memory, verbal fluency, and planning and problem-solving ability.
“These higher-orders of executive processes are depending on the prefrontal cortex,” explained the researchers. “However, more studies are needed to identify optimal exercise strategies to improve learning and memory.”
Some of the types of exercise that were examined in the studies included walking, running, and bicycling.
“Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain how acute exercise can improve memory and learning functions. Physical activity may induce plasticity-related proteins that tag nearby synapses for capturing by the memory stimuli.”
“Exercise may enhance attention and memory encoding through modulation of dopamine transmitters and increase the expression of dopamine.”
While more research is needed to understand the link between exercise and improved cognitive function, the findings may have important education-related implications, noted the researchers.
The study is published in the journal Translational Sports Medicine.